aGROWforests for Sustainable Spices in Indonesia

A smallholder farmer checks pepper plants (© Fairfood)

Fact sheet

Commodity: (White and black) Pepper

Country: Indonesia

Duration: 12/2022 to 11/2025

Target groups: 2.300 smallholder farmers

Total funding: 1.293.141 EUR

Private sector contribution: 1.207.923,38 EUR

© Fairfood

Project description

Food production and the climate are interlinked. So are food production and the climate crisis. On the one hand, the production of our food often has a negative impact on the climate. Forests making way for plantations is an important aspect in this matter. Often, what follows is a plantation with so-called monoculture - a piece of land dominated by a single crop - which has serious implications for biodiversity. At the same time, many smallholder farmers already feel the consequences of the climate crisis themselves. Think: prolonged droughts and heavy rains or increasing temperatures that cause certain pests or diseases to thrive.

Agroforestry can be a game-changer for those farmers, as it allows them to plant trees and larger shrubs between regular crops, providing protection against extreme weather conditions. Moreover, the planted trees help to absorb CO2 from the air. But there is more: agroforestry can improve farmers’ livelihoods with income diversification, e.g. new crops from the shade trees and shrubs. Moreover, it can support local biodiversity, making it a win for both the environment and farmers.

In a new partnership, Verstegen Spices & Sauces, Fairfood and PT CAN, together with Indonesian pepper farmers, are working on the adoption of agroforestry. Locally, a team was built of so-called change makers, who received agroforestry training and are now spreading the knowledge to the farmers. A demo plot, on which agroforestry has been practiced for a few years now, shows what’s possible, and what impact can be expected. The 3-year project targets 2.300 farmers (of which 30% women, 15% youth) in the provinces Bangka Belitung and Lampung in Indonesia.

This project aims to make the pepper plantations way less heavy on the climate, while also becoming more resilient to an already changing climate and to provide better livelihoods for farmers and their families.

Training of Trainer (© Fairfood)
Changemakers and farmers on a farm during training (© Fairfood)
Changemakers and farmers during training (© Fairfood)
Taining of trainer - Goup (© Fairfood)
Spice Hub in Namang (© Fairfood)


  • Verstegen
    Verstegen is a major player in the food sector founded in 1886. The family-owned company sells quality spices and sauces to every segment of the food sector: industry, foodservice, fresh distribution, retail and consumer market. Verstegen is primarily a Dutch company in the EU and a representative office in Indonesia. Besides Indonesia, Verstegen works together with organisations in India, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Brasil on improving sustainability in the supply chain.
  • PT CAN
    The Indonesian company PT CAN provides spices for B2B markets. Established in 2011 in Bandung, Indonesia, the company’s goal is to develop economic, social and environmental added-value sustainability of spices. PT CAN has a commitment to product traceability, community developments, and research in sustainable farming technology.
  • Fairfood
    The non-governmental organisation (NGO) Fairfood is based in the Netherlands since 2000. Its mission is to accelerate the change towards fair and sustainable food value chains. The organisation works with agri-food companies along value chains to develop innovative business models that benefit companies and cooperatives and enable fair value distribution models that lead to higher incomes for smallholder farmers. The NGO's global operations span 17 countries and various commodities and include large ongoing multi-year programs related to the cocoa, coffee, spices, horticulture and fruit sector.

Taining of trainer - Group (© Fairfood)

Agroforestry in Indonesian pepper cultivation: introducing resilient agriculture

Pepper prices have fallen dramatically over the recent years, making it increasingly difficult for producers to protect their livelihoods. At the same time, pepper monocultures threaten the biodiversity in the growing areas - and are a health hazard for the farmers who need enormous amounts of cheap fertilizers and chemical pesticides to protect their crops. But this is not the end of pepper cultivation: as we show in our project diary, the about the "aGROWforests" project is testing solutions to ensure that this spice will still be there in the future.